architecture

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

I know. “The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.” Yawn. Sounds really exciting, right?

But take a look at it!

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

It’s a bridge that becomes an underwater tunnel, and then goes back to being a bridge again while still in the water.

Pretty amazing, huh?

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is located about three hours from DC. It was built to give travelers an easier way to get across the bay from Virginia’s Eastern Shore to the rest of the state. When the structure opened in 1964, after four years of construction, it was hailed as “one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world,” according to the Washington Post.

I agree. And I’m clearly not the only one who thinks it’s so cool! The bridge-tunnel even has its own Facebook page with more than 5,000 fans, where you can see someВ amazing photos.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Other cool bridge-tunnels to check out: the Oresund, which connects Sweden to Denmark, and the Monitor-Merrimac, also in Virginia.

(Images via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel)

The Water Tank Project

Water tanks are such an integral part of the New York cityscape. If you look around most neighborhoods, you’ll see the structures perched atop many buildings.

This summer, the city’s tanks will be dressed up a bit.В The Water Tank Project is wrapping the vessels in artwork from both renowned artists—like Maya Lin and Jeff Koons—and NYC public school children. Besides being a public art installation, it’s also a campaign toВ bring awareness to theВ global water shortage, via social media messaging and on-the-ground events.

I love the idea of using the city’s iconic water tanks as canvases, especially when it’s attached to a good cause.

The first water tower, by Laurie Simmons, has already gone up in Chelsea. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m hoping to, soon!

The Water Tank Project

Previous water tank love, here and here.

(Image via the Water Tank Project)

Hurricane-Proof Beach Houses

I’ve mentioned a few times that one of my goals is to buy a beach house.

There are fewer places where I’m happier, than on a beach. (From the number of posts on the subject, I think that’s pretty clear!) And while I frequent the New York beaches each summer, it’s a long haul for me to get to any of them. My dream is to be able to spend most summer weekends at my own place, in a nearby beach town.

I’m not envisioning anything fancy. Just someplace bright, airy, and relatively quiet.

I do know the risks that come with owning a beach house, though. Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast’s seaside towns hard. Lots of areas are still recovering—including LBI, where I recently vacationed.

Knowing that, I’ve been poking around the web to see what can be done to help beachfront homes survive hurricanes. In the process, I stumbled upon two very different, but gorgeous, houses built to withstand natural disasters.

This seaside cottageВ sits on Hunting Island, off the coast of Maine.В The stones on the exterior walls came from the island. I love the juxtaposition of the rocks and weathered wood…

rustic exterior

…and how the home is just a few steps from the water!

rustic porch

That proximity to the ocean puts the house in a FEMA flood zone, which meant it had to built to code. Design firm, the Knickerbocker Group, oversaw the project: making sure vents could handle rushing floodwaters, ensuring that all wood was rot-proof, installingВ electrical wiring at least three feet off the floor. And that metal rod running along the roof, inside the living room? That’s to keep it from blowing off during a bad storm.

rustic living room

Scary to even think of that. Though I imagine falling asleep on most nights, listening to the sound of waves, makes the risk worth it.

rustic bedroom
On the other end of the design spectrum, is this Tsunami House, fromВ Design Northwest Architects,В on Washington’s Camano Island, in the Puget Sound.

tsunami_house_02

It, too, was built to FEMA code. The lower level is an expansive patio and seating area…

tsunami_house_07

…but since it would likely be underwater in the event of a hurricane, the main living space is nine feet above ground.

tsunami_house_18

The structure was built to withstand 85 mph winds and earthquakes.

tsunami_house_17

tsunami_house_19

At first, I was really wowed by the Tsunami House. But after seeing the stone cottage, I feel like that’s more my style: simple and rustic yet elegant. Either way,В it’s inspiring—and encouraging—to see what can be done within strict flood zone codes.

Which house do you prefer?

(Images of the stone house via Houzz;В images of the Tsunami House by Design Northwest Architects, found via Weather.com)

New Orleans-Themed Toms

I don’t often blog about products, but I couldn’t resist posting about these Toms. The design is a map of New Orleans.

NATURAL TOMS X MAKE IT RIGHT WOMEN'S CLASSICS

You know how much I love maps. And Toms are pretty much the only shoes I wear.

This particular pair is a collaboration between Toms and Make It Right, a nonprofit founded by Brad Pitt to build affordable, LEED Platinum certified homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward—which never fully recovered from Katrina.

I visited New Orleans for the first time, a year and a half ago, and loved the city. I was only there for a few days, but didn’t go to the Ninth Ward. To be honest, I didn’t want to be one of those “disaster tourists” who gawk at places hit by unfortunate events.

I would like toВ see the Make It Right houses, on my next trip, though. Some, like this one, are designed by firms based in New Orleans…

Waggoner and Ball Architects are located in New Orleans and designed this home.

…or nearby Baton Rouge.

Trahan Architects are based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and designed this home.

Others were designed by architects from Tokyo…

Shigeru Ban Architects are based in Tokyo, Japan and designed this home.

…and Ghana.

Constructs Architects are based in Accra, Ghana and designed this home.

Frank Gehry’s firm designed one, too.

Frank Gehry and Partners are based in Los Angeles, California and designed this duplex home.

At first, I was jarred at how starkly modern these homes are. I especially loved New Orleans’ historic architecture, and these houses seem to contrast so much. But after looking at the photos a few times, I could see design elements often found inВ more traditional NOLA homes—slatted wood, vibrant colors, porches.

Either way, Make It Right’s mission is undoubtedly rooted in good. I’m reserving my final opinion on the homes’ aestheticsВ for when I see them in person. 😉

(AndВ here’s one more pair of travel-worthy TomsВ I stumbled across.)

(Images via Toms and Make It Right)

Wooden Houses in Greenwich Village

There are days when my beloved city feels like an overwhelming mass of concrete—street after crowded street of brick and pavement. It’s not a wonder that even the most die hard of us New Yorkers often need to escape.

When I’m outside the city, I can’t help but marvel at scenery that feels a bit foreign: open expanses of grass, rolling hills, more trees than IВ can count. Plus, adorable wooden houses in rustic styles—a-frames, cabins, barns—that you never see in the city limits.

That’s why I was intrigued when I stumbled upon a listing for “Wooden Houses of Greenwich Village,” a talk from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Seriously? Wooden houses in Manhattan?

Apparently, there are a few! And they’re adorable.

This one, at 17 Grove Street, was built in 1822. (Love the red shutters and molding!)

17 Grove Street

And over at 121 Charles Street is another, which was transported downtown, from the Upper East Side, in 1967.

121 Charles Street

77 Bedford Street was originally a wooden house, though parts of its facade are now brick.

77 Bedford Street

The histories of these buildings are fascinating—read more about themВ here, on GVSHP’s blog.

I’m, unfortunately, not in the West Village all that often, so I haven’t stumbled upon these houses by chance. Though I know that once the weather gets warmer, I’ll be seeking them out to see for myself, in person.

(Images via the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation; found via the NY Times)

Stiltsville

I wouldn’t mind spending a few days out in Stiltsville. The seven houses perched upon pilings are located about a mile offshore Cape Florida, in the mud flats of Biscayne Bay.

Stilt House in Biscayne National Park.

Back in the 1930s, “Crawfish Eddie Walker” built the first house to sell bait, beer and chowder. Others soon followed—and opened up as exclusive clubs and hideaways.

Bay_Chateau

Over the years, the shacks acquiredВ notorious fameВ for the supposed debauchery that went on in them. In 1949, theВ Quarterdeck ClubВ was raided for illegal gambling, though no evidence was found. In the 1960s, theВ Bikini ClubВ offered free drinks (without having a liquor license, of course) to women dressed in the two-piece suits.

Leshaw_House

At that time,В Stiltsville had 27 houses—the most, ever. But over the years, hurricanes, fires and weather destroyed the structures.

A_Frame

Today, theВ National Parks ServiceВ owns the remaining seven buildings. (None of which existed since Stiltsville’s founding.) And no one lives there; their future usage is being debated. Some ideas are community centers, artist residences, research facilities, satellite NPS offices. In the meantime, people are granted access to the houses, on occasion—I actually learned of Stiltsville fromВ West Elm, who shot their catalog there!

…and if they ever decide to open them up as vacation rentals, you know I’ll be down there soon after!

(Photos by Brian F. Call via Stiltsville Trust, Inc.)

Out My Window

I feel like New Yorkers can’t help but be voyeurs.

No matter where you are in the city, you always have the opportunity to peek into other peoples’ lives. At work, I can wave to office workers in other buildings and look longingly uponВ outdoor roofdeck terraces. While walking, I can peep enviously into stately brownstones or check out the decor in glassy, ultra-modern apartments. A few times at ballet, I’ve been momentarily distracted (or almost knocked off balance) from catching a glimpse of someone’s TV in an apartment across the way.

And I wonder if my neighbors across the way know my habits–like coming home late most nights, eating dinner on my living room floor, then spending an hour or so on my laptop. (Although close proximity can be a good thing. I once locked myself in my bathroom and had to scream out my window until a very nice woman in another building heard, spoke to me from her window and got my super to rescue me.)

So I love the concept of the gorgeous book,В “Out My Window.”В PhotographerВ Gail Albert Halaban shot New Yorkers through various windows around the city. It’s a beautiful collection of what we New Yorkers do every day. As Halaban so nicely describes it on her blog:

I have found that many New Yorkers spend much of their window gazing time looking into their neighbor’s apartments. Through this voyeurism, form a sense of community. We are never alone here in New York.

out my window

out my window

out my window

out my window

Are you also guilty of peering into your neighbors’ windows?

(Photos via Out My Window)